MANILA — Caloocan City Representative Edgar Erice said Congress owes it to our fellow Filipinos in Mindanao to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
“Basta tayo sa Kongreso gawin natin yung trabaho natin, ibigay natin yung para sa mga kababayan nating Muslim (For us in Congress, let’s do our job and give our Muslim countrymen what they deserve),” Erice said during a forum on the proposed law organized by the House of Representatives Committee on Metro Manila Development at the Microtel Hotel, Quezon City a few weeks ago.
“I also sympathize with our Muslim brothers. Before they [were the] majority in Mindanao, now they have five small poor provinces and I think we really owe them, that we give these five small poor provinces to them,” Erice emphasized.
According to Erice, his support is despite the fact that most of the district representatives in the National Capital Region were not members of the Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL.
“We’ll really be relying heavily on the Ad Hoc Committee report on the BBL,” Erice admitted. “So hanggat di namin makikita, mababasa, mapag-aaralan yung Ad Hoc Committee report (So until we see, read, and study the Ad Hoc Committee report), we’ll have a very limited knowledge of the discussions, the pros and cons of the issues raised.”
However, Erice said “I would like to believe that our Constitution is alive and it should be able to unite our people whether we have divergent views, different religion or culture, dapat ma-unite niya yung ating mga kababayan, ang mga Pilipino (it should unite our countrymen, all Filipinos),” commenting on the contentious provisions of the BBL.
Quezon City Representative Winston Castelo noted the importance of the proposed BBL, and emphasized that the forum was organized to aid Metro Manila legislators especially when voting on the proposed law comes.
“The very intention of this forum is to discuss the controversial provisions of the bill…so that we as legislators may enrich our understanding of the bill,” Castelo said.
Present during the forum were Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel chair Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, GPH panel member former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani, and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal.
Aside from Castelo and Erice, members of the House Committee present at the forum were Representatives Francisco Calalay Jr., Benjamin Asilo, Rodolfo Biazon, Carlo Lopez, Romero Federico Quimbo, Enrico Echiverri, Juan Johnny Revilla, Marcelino Teodoro, Jose Cristopher Belmonte, Eric Olivarez, and Alfredo Vargas III.
Ferrer appealed to the legislators to put themselves in the shoes of the Bangsamoro in order to understand what the BBL aims to achieve, which is to close the gap between those in “the metropolitan core of the Republic of the Philippines” and the minority Muslim population in the periphery.
She also noted that the Constitution clearly provided for more powers to the autonomous region compared to regional development councils and to a metropolitan authority such as the Metro Manila Development Authority.
“Autonomous regions are special because of their distinct historical, social and economic features,” she said, citing provisions in the Constitution.